The topic of diversity has been garnering lots of news coverage recently and is a top business imperative at Unilever. Both globally and locally, we have been working for several years to achieve greater gender-balance and a more inclusive culture, because fundamentally, we believe that diverse organizations perform better. And the facts bear this out: According to the McKinsey report Diversity Matters, companies that are racially and ethnically diverse are 35% more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians, and companies with strong gender diversity are 15% more likely to outperform companies that do not.
I believe there are five fundamental benefits that come from creating a diverse team:
- Strengthens Your Teams
Building and fostering a diverse team is imperative for a company’s long-term growth. Unilever recognizes that value isn’t created when we put aside our differences, but when we channel our differences into positive business benefits. A breadth of experience and perspective is necessary for businesses to excel in an increasingly volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (VUCA) world. By working with people with different backgrounds, experiences and work styles, we learn and get contrasting viewpoints that enhance our ability to deliver great products.
- Powers Creativity and Innovation
Diversity unlocks innovation and drives market growth by creating an environment where “outside the box” ideas are heard. It deepens the talent pool through varying perspectives to inspire breadth of thought, making teams creative powerhouses. A cross-section of talent enables you to see problems or opportunities through different. Diversity enables us to be constantly and productively challenging the status quo.
- Enables Global Thinking, Locally
Businesses with work-forces that mirror their markets are more likely to perform better and deliver long-term value to consumers. A culturally diverse team helps to represent both local and global mind-sets, and thus ensures that your product or service is relevant to your market, and appeals to a global audience.
Globally, more than 172,000 people representing 150 nationalities work for Unilever. In Northwest Arkansas, there are 100+ people with different backgrounds, rich in diversity and passion. The company has more than 400 brands and sells products in 190 countries that two billion people use every day. Therefore, diversity is vital in order to truly understand today’s complex consumer, and to create products that will resonate and perform at all levels and in all markets.
- Inspires Reverse Mentorship
Celebrating your differences will create energy for your team. I enjoy hearing people’s different backgrounds, how each individual journey creates different strengths for each person. You can create mentorships – allowing everyone on your team to teach and share how their background changes their views. As a leader, it’s a great challenge to create an environment where those differences flourish but its inspiring to see the outcome when done well.
- Encourages Diverse Story Telling
Diversity of people equals diversity of thought. Your personal story is what drives you to do what you do every day; a loss of a parent at an early age, a sibling coming out, a grandparent raising you because your mom had to work around the clock. These are the experiences that shape us as leaders. Sharing your personal story isn’t easy, especially when it’s deeply personal. But once you do share your story, it unlocks immediate trust with your teams. You will be viewed as a leader who rises above adversity, cares deeply about people, and allows others to share their stories as well.
I believe that Unilever’s long term ambition – to make sustainable living commonplace – will be achieved through passionate and diverse people looking to make a difference here in Northwest Arkansas and across the globe.
*Vice President Customer Development, Walmart & Sam’s Club – Unilever
*Title and company of the author reflect their position at the time article was written.
The opinions expressed here by guest bloggers are their own, not necessarily those of Stout Executive Search.